by: Zenas Agnila || Photo Credit: Diversify
“Umagang may dala ng bagong pag-asa—,” the loud, abrupt carols of the neighbors’ prepubescent children blend in with the subdivision’s already Christmas spirit-infused evening atmosphere. The scent of Tatay’s adored sweet-style spaghetti lingers throughout the residence and in everyone’s unassuming nostrils. And coming in clumps, extended families slowly arrive to saturate the house that now feels like home.
There must be something so beautiful and memorable about a Pinoy Christmas that sets it leagues apart from the rest of the world’s holiday celebrations.
In truth, its beauty is not entirely centered around the grandest of Noche Buenas or the prettiest of exchange gifts. A genuine Christmas in the country has pillars that lie on the simplicity of our faith, food, and family.
The Philippines being a predominantly Christian nation, faith is undeniably a fundamental aspect of our country’s culture, and unsurprisingly, so is Christmas. For most, the heart of the holidays lies in the Christmas church services and Simbang Gabis, which does no less than acknowledge and honor the birth of Jesus Christ—our reason for the season. Far detached from Santa Clauses and the numerous other figures that make up most of the western celebrations, Filipino holidays are punctuated by evening church trips with family, merry thanksgiving to the Lord, and countless other nostalgic church Christmas traditions with relatives.
Food is every Filipino’s love language and the star of every home’s Christmas. It is the highlight, if not the most sought-after aspect of our holidays, whether we like to admit it or not. The sight of the pre-Christmas night is decorated with our nanays, tatays, titos, and titas dominating the kitchen scene in a chaotic war of prepping up Christmas dishes mixed with just the right amount of chitchat and unhinged laughter. Once prepared, on the dinner table lies the ubiquitous and saliva-inducing Lechon, the sweet Filipino-style spaghetti that Italians would go berserk about, the seared, sweet-savory Christmas ham, mango float, fruit salad, bibingka, and countless more dishes that remain unnamed yet are as ever-present and ever-delectable on the table. Such a feast is made possible through the time and effort families pour into meticulously preparing and cooking the night’s Noche Buena, so hats off to our humble kitchen heroes. In such a way, it is with great certainty that we go home with more than just our hearts full, but our stomachs as well.
It’s the people who make Christmas worth showing up for — whether they’re the openhanded aunts who unhesitantly give out the crisp blue bills, the cousins from far away who come home to spend the year-end with us, or even the closest friends who become family too. For us, the holidays are family reunions in disguise, the golden opportunity to catch up on everyone’s fast-paced life and rekindle the spark of closeness lost by time and distance. The human interactions, lighthearted games, small talk, and sweet nothings that comprise our holiday festivities make celebrating Christmas with the loves of our life all sweeter and warmer.
We Filipinos pride ourselves on a Christmas rallying around faith, good food, and the warm company of family.
Even so, there are many ways to celebrate the holidays; it can be as simple or as grand as how we’d like it to be. In whichever way we choose to celebrate this very special day, there is an assurance that despite the prospect of uncertainty that the other days bring, we Filipinos always find ourselves making the sweet effort to make that time of year an extra special one. In a nutshell, our Christmas celebrations are deeply rooted in the spirit of thanksgiving, contentment, and joy against all odds.
Our Paskong Pinoy is one filled with simply celebrating the gift of Christ’s birth, mouthwatering feasts, and genuine relationships with the people we can count on throughout the new year.
So, as the holiday season comes to a close, we wait in giddy anticipation—eager to relive those candlelit moments anew. And as we find ourselves storing away the Christmas lights and decorations, we keenly look forward to the next Pinoy Yuletide, ready to display those colorful ornaments again the next time that special time of year makes its way around our calendars once more.